Senate Judiciary Committee Invites ACLU Leader, Bob Barr, Viet Dinh to Discuss Civil Liberties in Post-9/11 America

November 18, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Nadine Strossen, President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will testify this morning before the full Senate Judiciary Committee on how security measures established after 9/11 have crowded the American legal system with currently and potentially abusive government powers.

Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr and Professor Viet Dinh, who negotiated the PATRIOT Act on behalf of the Justice Department, are also slated to appear as witnesses.

“We are in danger of being governed by our fears rather than our values,” Strossen said. “Congress must step in – now – and revisit post-9/11 security measures, leave the ones that make sense on the books, and fix the ones that don’t.”

The hearing, titled “America Post-9/11: Freedoms Preserved or Freedoms Lost?” is the latest in a series of oversight hearings convened by the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the effectiveness and implications on civil liberties of certain post-9/11 security measures that have generated significant controversy in the two years since the attacks.

Prominent among these are certain provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2001 anti-terrorism law that passed through Congress in record time six weeks after 9/11, which the ACLU says diminish procedural checks and balances on executive discretion in national security and law enforcement that are essential to preventing government abuses and preserving individual liberty.

As evidence of their impropriety, the ACLU pointed to the Justice Department’s use of surveillance and investigative powers, granted or expanded in the PATRIOT Act, in cases completely unrelated to terrorism – even though the Attorney General, when lobbying for PATRIOT’s passage, sold the bill as an extraordinary measure needed only to combat the new threat of al-Qaeda-style terrorism.

The disclosure of PATRIOT Act use in two Las Vegas cases – one involving municipal corruption, the other the violation of the financial privacy of homeowner association members – prompted former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to run a column earlier this month expressing concern with such use of the PATRIOT Act. “[In] no case should prosecutors of domestic crimes seek to use tools intended for national security purposes,” he wrote.

The ACLU also emphasized that the PATRIOT Act is but one of many unjustified right-infringing measures in post-9/11 America. Equally worrisome are the President’s insistence that he be able to single-handedly designate American citizens as “enemy combatants,” devoid of due process rights; the Defense Department policy permitting the use of military commissions — also absent crucial due process protections — against non-citizens, even those on American soil; the Attorney General’s Guidelines allowing secret infiltration of worship services and political meetings without any suspicion of illegal activity, and the capricious detention and deportation of non-citizens at the hands of the Justice and Homeland Security Departments.

Strossen’s testimony can be found at:
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